If you haven't heard of these CEOs yet, you will soon.
By Rachel Payne (CEO & Co-Founder, FEM Inc.)
Having recently spoken at the L.A. Tech Summit’s Shark Tank, I was inspired to see that three of the four speakers who joined me this year were women. In just one year, I have seen a significant increase in the percentage of female representation as conference speakers. The conversation about “women in tech” has changed remarkably; ultimately, this mindset shift, the openness, and pro-active willingness is what is changing the status quo. As a longtime advocate on this issue, this is an exciting moment to witness.
In light of that, here is a list of 13 women rocking the technology world. You may not have heard of them yet, but most certainly you will. My founders and I are so honored to be part of the exciting evolution for the tech industry where gender will no longer be a barrier to full and equal participation.
1. Alice Taylor: CEO & Founder, MakieLab
L.A. Tech Summit Shark Tank winner and queen of the Maker movement, Alice Taylor is pioneering a new approach to toys and children’s creativity. After five years of producing and overseeing digital content at the BBC, and another four years as Commissioning Editor at Channel 4, she quit her job and founded the first 3D printing doll company, MakieLab.
The MakieLab Toymaker platform allows customers to design and customize their own dolls -- called Makies -- then prints and ships the unique creations all over the world. After completing the Disney Accelerator program, Alice signed a three-year licensing contract with Disney, Pixar and Marvel for Makie outfits and accessories.
2. Crystal Rose: CMO & Founder, Sensay
Technologist and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, Crystal Rose has founded a digital interactive agency and two technology startups to date. Fellow Shark Tank speaker (and runner-up), Crystal’s latest startup venture is Sensay, a mobile messaging service that is revolutionizing helpful chatrooms by connecting advice-seekers and advice-givers via text. Crystal is also the founder and producer of LA Startup Week.
3. Sumaya Kazi: CEO & Founder, Sumazi.com
Years of social media experience, including a position as one of the first social media managers to lead social strategy at a Fortune 500 company, brought Sumaya to her current role as founder and CEO of Sumazi.com, a social intelligence company that connects users to “the people you don’t know, but should.” The three-year-old company has propelled Sumaya be recognized as one of BusinessWeek’s “Best Young Entrepreneurs,” CNN’s “Young Person Who Rocks,” Silicon Valley Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” and UTNE Reader Magazine’s “50 Visionaries Changing Your World.”
4. CEO/Founder/Inventor/Architect: ION, Gracenote, Sceneplay, Fanpulse, The Hugging Company, and more…
A serial entrepreneur and inventor, Ann Greenberg has founded multiple companies fusing entertainment and technology, most recently Sceneplay, a platform that automates collaborative storytelling. Ann co-founded Gracenote, the leading entertainment data and technology provider across music, video and sports acquired first by Sony and then by Tribune. She co-founded ION as an early immersive studio doing work with David Bowie, Brian Eno and Primus. Her impressive career has spanned several successful ventures and she now shares her success as a mentor to Korea’s first accelerator, SparkLabs, and is an advisor to entertainment technology companies (including mine).
5. Raina Kumra Gardiner: CMO & Co-founder, Mavin
As co-founder and CMO of Mavin, a mobile startup focused on affordable Internet access, Raina leads marketing strategy as the company grows in emerging markets. The company’s first product Gigato is the first sponsored data platform in India that benefits both developers and end users. As if her role with Mavin wasn’t enough, Raina is also the CEO of Juggernaut, an agency focused on digital, design and disruption through behavioral and brand strategy.
6. Anna Kohanski Mason: Co-founder, BurnThis
Anna is the co-founder of BurnThis. A former Wall Street bond trader, she transitioned into the startup world in 2013 to transform her passion for fitness into a cutting-edge technology driven business. The app, marketed as “Pinstagram for fitness,” allows users to post and share “fitspiration” photos, creating a community of support and motivation called the “BurnThis FitFam.” The product was voted one of Apple's top health and fitness tracking apps on the App Store.
7. Ingrid Sanders: CEO, popexpert
As founder and CEO of popexpert, Ingrid is credited with the creation of an online platform that allows anyone to learn from experts through live video sessions and original on demand classes in a variety of topics designed to help you live a happier, healthier more productive life. The site works with thousands of experts and has paying customers in more than 90 countries. In March this year, they announced the acquisition of the Online Marketing Institute, leader in digital marketing training, and continue to grow with the launch of the Mindful Institute.
8. Danielle Weisberg: Co-founder, theSkimm
She's the youngest on the list and co-founder of theSkimm, the fastest growing email newsletter on the market. Before Danielle and her best friend Carly Zakin launched theSkimm, the two were producers and former interns at NBC News. In addition to accruing a massive subscriber list, the company raised $7.9 million in 2014, and the two founders were named on Forbes 2015 “30 Under 30” in the media category. (Editor's Note: Check out theSkimm Raises $6M to Make it Easier to Be Smarter.)
9. Debbie Stirling: CEO & Co-founder: GoldieBlox
One of the leading voices in the movement to encourage girls to be interested in engineering and technology, Stirling is an engineer, spokesperson and CEO and co-Founder of toy manufacturer GoldieBlox. The three-year-old company creates innovative and fun toys for girls, designed to develop confidence in problem-solving and early interest in engineering. Debbie holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design from Stanford University.
10. Nicole Shariat Farb: Founder, Darby Smart
Nicole did what most people dream about but never actually do: Leave her leadership role at a Fortune 100 company to follow her dream of monetizing her passion. In 2013, the former head of emerging private companies in investment banking at Goldman Sachs founded Darby Smart, an online craft marketplace. Two years later, the gross merchandise volume has increased by 296 percent and more than 2,500 designers and bloggers have joined.
11. Kara Nortman: Founder & Board Director, Seedling
Kara co-founded Seedling alongside Soleil Moon Frye and recently partnered with Phoebe Hayman. Seedling is a lifestyle product company in 2007. With her guidance, the company now sells its toys, gifts, activity kits and party supplies in more than 20 countries. Kara is also the company’s chairman and a partner at Upfront Ventures.
12. Luan Cox: CEO & Founder, Crowdnetic
Leveraging her background in financial technology and experience as General Manager of Interactive Data Managed Solutions, Luan founded Crowdnetic in 2011. Her company, a leading provider of market data solutions and funding portal platform technology to the private equity and crowdfunded securities industry, was one of 10 companies selected to participate in the Springboard Enterprises Accelerator class of 2013-Media Tech.
13. Joanna McFarland: CEO & Co-founder: HopSkipDrive
Joanna McFarland was a mother of two looking for a way to make shuttling her kids around easier. That’s why, after 15 years in product and general management, she co-founded a company to solve that problem. HopSkipDrive arranges rides for kids with drivers who have significant childcare experience, thereby lessening the load on parents’ plates while attending to safety concerns. The company now has more than 2,000 users, 100 drivers and plans to expand nationally.
Wow, right? These women inspire me every day with their genius, generosity of spirit, resilience, optimism, compassion, endurance and dedication. Be sure to check them out and watch their progress – this will be an exciting chapter for these women entrepreneurs! Thank you!
About the guest blogger: Rachel Payne started FEM Inc., a media and technology company, when she realized that there was an enormous opportunity in entertainment for innovation. Previously, Rachel was part of several early tech ventures, including the founding team of Google.org, Billpoint (acquired by eBay), Hotwire (acquired by IAC) and she co-founded inDplay (acquired by Discovery Media Holding Company). Follow her on Twitter at @rachelpayne.